Bohemian Rhapsody part 1: Rock the Boat

Author: Yoper101
Published: 2017-07-20, edited: 2017-07-22
Narrative-based MEIOU and Taxes AAR.

Part of the campaign:

Bohemian Rhapsody

This is a narrative based AAR of the MEIOU and Taxes version 2.0 modification for Europa Universalis 4. All downloadable content is being used, save for 'Third Rome' and 'Mandate of Heaven'. Bear in mind that this is not a historical textbook. If you are inspired by any of the proceeding events, please conduct your own research into such topics, rather than going by the word of one unreliable user on the internet. Also note that occasionally, images may appear out of chronological order. This has been done to strengthen the narrative that the game provides. Now please, sit back, relax, put some music on, and enjoy the show.
Emperor Karl* of Luxembourg sat and suffered in silence as the two servants busied about him. They set a heavy purple cloak across his shoulders, straightened the occasional crease in his shirt and combed his hair. Finally, they placed the glittering crown of Bohemia upon his head. Today, he would just be King Karl.

Karl kept his movements to a minimum. He had to appear resplendent; spotless. He gently lifted a hand and commanded: 'Tell Anna that she may bring the court to session.'

The servants bowed at the waist, then bade a hasty retreat in search of the Emperor's wife. The court had been called to meet an hour from now, but many of them had tried to surprise their King with a hasty arrival at Prague Castle. Not one to be caught unready, Karl had suggested to Anna that she briefly entertain the court before the session began in earnest. After all, he needed every advantage he could get if his plan were to succeed.

For now all he could do was wait at the head of the enormous, empty hall.

*Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor. In game he's called Karl for some reason. It's not his Czech name; that would have been Karel.
The court mumbled and grumbled, but the decree came from the King, so there was little they could do against it. Not right now, anyway.

Karl was silently satisfied that he had managed to bring Bohemia this far. Leading the ship of state was particularly difficult, especially when one had two different states to command.

He had managed to get the nobility of Bohemia and to a lesser extent, the house of Luxembourg, to agree to begin centralising the bureaucracy of state under the authority of the king. Karl had known that no noble in his right mind would agree to such a thing, so he also decreed, effective immediately, that the landed nobility would have their taxes reduced, and the small number of burgher lords would have their civil taxes reduced also.

Since that was all he had to say, Karl afterwards remained silent and allowed the court to discuss what matters the nobility thought most important. These gatherings were infrequent at the best of times, so everybody was taking the chance to make and break deals.
After a little time had passed, the Marquis of Moravia, Karl's most prominent subject, abandoned the group of lesser nobles he was talking to, and came to speak with the King.

'Brother Jan, why leave it so many months between conversations? You could at least bother to write,' Karl said, half-jokingly.

'Oh, matters of state always seem to keep me busy, and when I find the time, it seems you call the court to session again.' Replied Jan von Luxembourg.

Karl frowned. 'What do you think of the new direction for Bohemia?'

'I have come to talk to you about that very thing,' said Jan. 'The people are talking, or the people that matter are, and they seem to think you mean to make Holy Rome your own personal county, with your new electors dancing along to your tune.'

'What does that have to do with Bohemia?'

'This move to centralise your authority might be seen as confirmation of that.'

'Indeed it might,' said Karl pleasantly. 'I find myself guiding two ships in a stormy sea. Would it not be safest to tie the ships together?'

'Oh indeed. This move is particularly wise for our house, but I doubt that the rest of the Empire will be so happy. You may end up just rocking your ship, and if you've ever been at sea, you don't rock the boat. The sea does that enough for you.' Jan said, gravely.

'I am taking a gamble, brother dear. Our house has become significant, and I wish to keep it that way. If I do not make brave moves, then the other great houses of Europe surely will.'

'I bow to your wisdom, Majesty,' said Jan, doing just that in order to make his retreat.
Time passed. Spring turned to summer, and the people of Bohemia prospered. The army was built up, and Karl began work on expanding his castle in Prague.

Administering to the squabbling princes of Europe proved more difficult than he had expected. His decree, that was quickly becoming known as the Golden Bull, may have centralised authority in the empire around him and the elector states, but this had simply re-directed the Empire's troubles, rather than removed them completely.

Karl searched through his court and found Josef Rosemberk*, Mayor of some small town away in the east of Bohemia, who was a most capable diplomat and statesman. Karl put him to work immediately, helping the Emperor to adjudicate between the princes and bishops and merchants of the Empire.

*Spelled like this to make it easier to read.
Karl was sat at a desk, reading Virgil, when a knock came at the door. He sighed; he did not get too much time to himself.

'Come!' He barked.

The door opened timidly, and in stepped Josef Rosemberk, his chief statesman.

'Sorry to bother you, your majesty,' said he, 'It's just some news from the Italian Princes.'

'Well, go on then,' Said Karl, putting the Latin poetry aside for the moment.

'They are loaning money, majesty.'

'What, like the Jews?' Exclaimed Karl. 'Surely that falls under Simoney.'*

'Indeed sir. Some of them are even promising to take in money to keep it safe. I'm not too sure I trust them myself, but I thought your majesty could do with hearing about such a matter.'

Karl thought for a moment. If the Church wasn't going after these new money lenders, then they might serve some use. The Emperor of Holy Rome might make a good patron for some rich, but low-born merchant, and money was always a good thing to have.

'Thank you Josef, this information might be of some use. Is there anything else?'

'Just that rumours of Anna's pregnancy are spreading throughout the land, majesty.'

'There's no harm in that really. Thank you, Josef,' Said Karl, dismissing the statesman with a wave of his hand.

*Charging interest to fellow Christians; It's supposed to be a crime according to the Catholic Church. This is why Jews were allowed to be moneylenders, when other career paths were closed to them by the racist policies and laws of the time.
Anna lay swathed in sheets on the four poster bed. Karl sat at end of the bed. The royal physician and Anna's ladies-in-waiting had already been dismissed. In his arms, Karl gently cuddled the tiny, swaddling-clad form of Otakar. He had been married three times, but never had he loved a woman so much as Anna, for she had born him a son and secured his family legacy.*

Karl looked up from Otakar's sleeping form and grinned at Anna again. His wife grinned weakly back, and held out her arms to hold the baby herself.

Karl passed him over. The motion must have disturbed him, for Otakar suddenly opened his eyes, then screwed them up tight and let out a piercing wail.

'He has the voice of a commander!' proclaimed Karl. 'He will lead Bohemia to great victories.'

'No, he is crying for attention.' Said Anna, bouncing little Otakar in her arms. 'He knows he will be king, and he wants us to bow.'

'Oh, in that case…' Karl bowed as low as he could whilst sitting and held his arms out wide. 'Hail to King Otakar!'

*Charles IV did actually have a son before he married Anna, but I've decided to simplify matters for the sake of the story. Charles' first son came by his second wife (also called Anna; she died young) and died before his first birthday.
Karl sat in all his regalia, stinking of pomp and circumstance. Before him cowered the three diplomats of the Milanese delegation.

A servant presented a silver platter to the Emperor, who glanced at the document upon it, turned his hand over, and stamped his signet ring into the hot wax already on the document.

The diplomats fell over themselves, espousing the graces of such a wise man, but Karl's mind was already on other matters. If the Italian states did not back down, he might actually have to go to war.
Rank upon rank of spear-wielding soldier stood before Emperor Karl for inspection. Backs straight, armour gleaming, the men-at-arms looked proud to serve house Luxembourg in this matter.

'How soon before we march, Majesty?' Asked their commander, stood to Karl's side.

'Hopefully, never,' replied the Emperor. 'But should the Italians ignore my ultimatum, we will march by the end of the week.'
At midday, on the ninth of December, 1358, church bells rang out all through the city of Milan and its surrounding estates. The alliance of Italian states had agreed to a peace of understanding. Nothing was to change. For the war-ravaged Milanese subjects, this came as a great relief.

It proved also a relief to Karl, as his servants whirled around him to prepare for his departure to the next Imperial Diet, to be held, as decreed in his golden bull, in Aachen.* This successful diplomatic play he had made would gain him much prestige in the eyes of the Diet.

It was time to announce his plans, the Emperor thought to himself.

*Not true. The golden bull only stated the Emperors had to be crowned in Aachen, and in fact the first Diet of an emperor had to be held in Nuremberg. This is being condensed for the purposes of narrative.
The Diet met in a field outside the limits of the city, for the weather was surprisingly warm this winter. A large circle of chairs and tables had been provided for the princes and their delegations, whilst the Emperor sat with the electors at another table in the middle of the circle.

Karl didn't really like being in the middle; he couldn't see behind himself without turning, and such a task would prove impossible wearing such a delicate costume as he had to for these occasions.

The opening remarks were swiftly gotten out of the way, and proceedings were moved on to the main event; the Emperor's speech. Karl was mildly upset that Anna was not there to hear it, but she still had to nurse little Otakar. And besides, Karl suspected that she might be with child again. She had been vomiting each morning of the past week like clockwork, and the court physician could find nothing the matter with her.

Karl put thoughts of Anna aside, as the Elector of Brandenburg wound down his pompous introductions. His moment had come.

'This Empire…' Karl began. He looked around him, and his cloak fell off one shoulder. He ignored it. He could see the princes behind him were struggling to hear.

Karl stood up and draped his cloak over the back of the chair. He strode across the grassy field, cut short especially for this grand meeting. He reached the side of the circle and climbed on top of the table there, despite the muttered protests of the Duke of Saxony and the Mayor of Hamburg. Jan was also sat at the table, but he just smirked at Karl, saying nothing.

'This Empire,' He resumed. 'Has been named the successor of mighty Rome of old. And indeed we do follow on from Rome, for we squabble amongst ourselves. We fight to take our own land off each other, and we pursue tasks unique to each of us.

'This Empire needs united leadership, and strong governance. As a result, I want to propose a set of further reforms. I have already clarified how emperors are to be chosen, but more must be done. The emperor must be able to act with the voice of the Empire, not just his own.

'We are all under pressure. It pushes down on you all. It pushes down on me. Let us lighten the load we bear by sharing it commonly amongst ourselves. As such, I propose that the Empire be reformed to allow for better co-operation between the princes of Holy Rome.'

Karl clasped his hands together to signify that he was finished, and scattered applause broke out from amongst the princes. He did not expect to make any real progress today, but once his position was stronger; ah, then they would not dare say no.

Next chapter:

Game: Europa Universalis IV

Bohemian Rhapsody part 2: Greased Lightning

Images: 9, author: Yoper101, published: 2017-07-22